Food and nutritional situation at the beginning of the hunger season and agricultural outlook in the Sahel and West Africa

Food and nutritional situation at the beginning of the hunger season and agricultural outlook in the Sahel and West Africa
Jun 2014

Participants in the restricted meeting of the regional food and nutrition security monitoring system in the Sahel and West Africa, which was held from 18 to 19 June 2014 in Ndjamena, Chad, issued the following declaration:

  1. Agricultural trade flows performed well in the second quarter (April-June) in the West African region, thanks to surpluses from the major exporting countries (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria) moved to the deficit areas of the Sahel. Thus, markets were regularly supplied through de-stocking by traders; which helped to stabilize trade flows. Therefore, a price stability in relation to the average of the last five years was observed for millet, sorghum and maize. However, significant price increases of principal cereals consumed, by over 15% compared to the five-year average, were observed in May in northern Mali, in the Ouaddai and Guera, Chad, in the Hodhs and Nouakchott, Mauritania, Diffa, Maradi and Zinder in Niger and on the neighbouring lead market of Kano, in Nigeria.. The cassava price also significantly increased in southern Chad under the combined effect of the supply malfunctions and influx of displaced persons and returnees from the Central African Republic. (CAR).
  2. Moreover, the persistent insecurity in northern Mali, northern Nigeria and Central African Republic might cause market dysfunctions in these areas, in Niger and Chad with the corollary problems of access to food for the poor and very poor households. Moreover, violence in these areas has caused new population displacements, thereby increasing pressure on the resources of local populations.
  3. The pasoral situation remains worrisome because of the scarcity of pasture and insufficient water points in areas with deficit in pasture, especially in Senegal, Mauritania, Chad, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. This situation is characterized by a deterioration of the body conditions of local livestock (cattle and sheep) since March in northern Burkina, eastern and northwestern Niger, in the Sahel area of Chad and the pastoral zone of Mali. To cope, pastoralists use complementation feeding for their livestock, consisting of agro-industrial by-products. The strong demand for these products has led to a rise in prices, sometimes higher than the normal by 20 to 30%. Therefore, a high concentration of animals has been observed around the scarce resources available, with the risk of serious damage to them. This situation is even more pronounced in the pastoral zone of Diffa, in Niger, exacerbated by the armed conflict in northeastern Nigeria. These livestock feeding problems could be observed until the end of June, before the regeneration of the natural pasture from July.
  4. Regarding malnutrition, the situation remains a concern in the region, despite interventions by Governments and their partners in this area. Between June and August 2014, the rate of acute global malnutrition expected could be 10% above the alert threshold and 15% above the emergency threshold in a higher number of areas, particularly in Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and in Burkina Faso in a localized manner. During the hunger season, limited access to food for the poor and very poor households and increased risk of malaria and diarrhaeal diseases during the rainy season, can lead to a deterioration of the nutritional status of children. This situation could further deteriorate with the underfunding of actions for the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition.
  5. In response to the consequences of the food and nutritional insecurity that might affect nearly 5 million people, from March to June (RPCA/FCPN, April 2014, current situation), Governments and their partners made significant efforts in terms of food assistance, livelihood protection and management of malnutrition, particularly in Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Senegal. However, due to the low level of implementation of the response plans, linked to the inadequacy of the financial resources mobilized by the States and their partners, the already precarious food situation of the vulnerable populations may be affected. Thus, the number of people in food problems during the lean season in most pastoral and agro-pastoral areas in the Sahel could reach 8 million people.
  6. Furthermore, despite the good availability of food products and the relative overall stability of market prices, price increases observed on millet, sorghum and maize locally in some areas, particularly in the Ouaddai and Guera in Chad, in southeastern Mauritania, the Gao and Timbuktu regions, in Mali and those of Agadez and Diffa in Niger, as shown in the map below, could further limit access to food for the poor and very poor households. This sitation concerns both the civil insecure areas in northern Nigeria and the host zones of displaced populations in southern Chad and Niger. On the other hand, an improvement in the food situation is expected in the pastoral areas from July and August, thanks to the regeneration of the pasture and filling of water points.
  7. On the current situation of the agricultural season, an early start of the season is observed in some places in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad. On the other hand, in most of the Sudano-Sahelian and Sudanian zones, crop installation delays have been observed. Also, the dry spells recorded during the period have led to re-planting in some places, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad.
  8. The locust situation is calm, in general. However, small-scale breeding of desert locusts was observed in northern Sahel, including Mauritania, Mali, and Niger where early rains were recorded in April and May in the summer breeding areas. Also, the presence of locust swarms and groups of larval and adult individuals in Saudi Arabia and Sudan could threaten the eastern Sahel.
  9. In prospect, the updated seasonal rainfall and hydrological forecasts (June-July-August) and (July-August-September) made in May 2014 by the CILSS and ACMAD for West Africa, Chad and Cameroon, indicate high probabilities of having rainfall totals equivalent to normal in most of the region. However, deficient rainfall totals or equivalent to the normal (1981/2010) are expected in Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and western Côte d’Ivoire, and normal to surplus cumulative rainfalls in southeastern Ghana and southern Togo, Benin and Nigeria. Both at the beginning and the post- flowering period of crops, the medium to long dry spells could hinder the crop development and productivity. Hydrologically, the expected waterflows would be generally mean in most river basins of the region. The uncertainty in the manifestation of the El niño phenomenon and its potential impact on agricultural production in the northern hemisphere should be monitored carefully.